So, a friend recently challenged me to the latest Facebook fad, that of challenging people to name albums that have influenced them, no comment or explanations. Of course, asking me about rock and roll and saying not to comment on that? Yeah right. I wrote a little about each album, but my muse punched me in the back of the head today, so you’re getting an expanded version. Also, I’ve had ‘Istanbul, Not Constantinople’ stuck in my head ALL DAMN DAY, so hopefully this will help dislodge it. It’s not that the song is bad per se, but it reminds me of a time in my life I don’t much like to remember, so. It’s not been a pleasant day. I feel I should set the atmosphere with this excerpt from Almost Famous, the scene that made me fall in love with the film.
And he’s correct – it is NEVER too early for Search and Destroy.
Let’s get to it.
1: Ramones, Rocket to Russia
Their first album has a more iconic cover (There are walking tours that’ll go past the spot where it was taken) and It’s Alive is the greatest live album/Greatest Hits of all time, but for my money this album can’t be beat. It’s a perfect summation of the band and the last time the original lineup recorded a studio album. Look, it contains Sheena is a Punk Rocker, what more do I need to say? It’s been a dream of mine for seemingly decades now to meet someone with that name so I can ask are they a punk rocker? That that, add the likes of Cretin Hop, I Don’t Care and We’re a Happy Family, and you’ve got perfection. All killer, no filler.
2: Radio Birdman – Radios Appear
This was one of those rare albums without a dud track, a dud solo or even a dud moment. Even the gaps between tracks command the attention, as you desperately try to get your breath back before the next track kicks in. From the crashing waves that signal the start of Aloha Steve and Danno (a tribute to the band’s favorite cop show) to a final ferocious run through the 13th Floor Elevators classic You’re Gonna Miss Me, this takes no prisoners. When I got a copy of this I listened to virtually nothing but it for weeks. It’s burned into my brain to a degree I thought not possible. I have trouble remembering important things like relatives birthdays, computer passwords and the like, and yet this I can hear this in my head at a moments notice. It’s over 40 years old and is still as vital as the day it was first recorded. Essential.
3: Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast
The first Maiden album I bought was A Real Live One, which to be charitable, is no Live After Death, but the title track to their third album was the first Maiden song I heard, and I was immediately hooked. From the spoken word intro (Recorded by a Vincent Price sound alike after the band couldn’t afford his fee), the atmosphere of the intro (That nearly drove singer Bruce Dickinson mad recording) and then it hit me. That. Big .Scream. I was never the same from that moment on. It’s been near 25 years, and I’m still just as devoted to the band. Yes, about a side of the album is a little sub par*, but the other half more than makes up for it. really, when that half is is comprised of stone cold classics the likes of the title track, Run to the Hills, The Prisoner and the almighty Hallowed be thy Name, anything will pale in comparison. Up the Irons!
4: Motorhead – No Remorse
i’d heard stories about the band and their leader, the mythical creature known simply as Lemmy, and his famous boast that ‘If Motorhead moved next door to you your lawn would die.’ And then, Bambi. The Young Ones was a revelation to young me. It was crude, violent, foul and anarchic, all things that I kind of wanted to be but were in reality far too polite and guilt ridden to even think of being. And then with a command of ‘Music!’ from Christopher Ryan, Motorhead appeared. (I’d like to say my eardrums have never been the same, but that was thanks to the Rollins Band) This was the first album of theirs I purchased, a best of compilation with a few new tracks to show off a new (and short lived) lineup, but as an introduction to the band it worked like a charm.
Much like our next act, they never really changed their sound once they’d found it. Sure, there was the odd deviation (1916 never fails to make me weep), but no matter the year, you hit play on a Motorhead album you know what you’ll get. As Lemmy said to intro shows “We are Motorhead, and we play rock and roll.” Truer words have rarely been spoken.
5: AC/DC – Live
Again, I knew of them beforehand, having heard Who Made Who, but this made me a fan. Sure, the guitar solos during The Jack and Jailbreak are overlong, but it cuts most of the mid 80’s dreck and gives you a solid mix of the Bon Scott and Brian Johnson eras. Yes, the Bon stuff is superior (Would you rate Thunderstruck over Highway to Hell?) and I’ve not met anyone who’ll deny that, but the Brian era has it’s share of gems – I can’t help but get worked up during the cannon fire of For Those About to Rock. It’s meat and potatoes rock and roll, but played with incredible consistency – I’d wager no-one alive has picked up an Acca Dacca record and not known what you’re about to get, and they should be celebrated for that. Live is where music is best experienced after all.
6: Dub War – Pain
There were a few albums around this time that turned my head and opened my ears to sounds anew – Faith No More’s The Real Thing, Sepultura’s Roots and Fear Factory’s Demanufacture among others. But Dub War were like nothing I’d ever heard before – a mix of punk, metal, reggae and electronic all chucked in a blender to mesmerizing effect. That description may sound bonkers, and you’d be right, but the boundaries they laughed at made it all the more joyful. Hell, I even bought their remix album for crying out loud, something I never thought I’d do previously. Underappreciated in their time, like all great artists, their spirit lives on in singer Benji Webbe’s current band Skindred.
7: The Hu – The Gereg
Mongolian throat singing and heavy metal – two amazing things that sound even more amazing smashed together. Most folk metal (at least that I’ve heard) has a Viking or Celtic bent, but with bands like this and Tengger Cavalry, it’s challenging the white European centric view of metal and that is a damn good thing. (Yes, I’m aware that Tang Dynasty were the first, but work with me here.) Back to the band, they’re metal as fuck but in a chill kind of way. This is made for listening to when walking across ancient mountains, or while writing Dungeons and Dragons games, rather than frenzied moshing. Not that I wouldn’t jump in the pit though, for the KHAAAAAAAN!
The real kicker? Owing to Covid 19 they’re currently (As far as I know) stranded in Australia and can’t play shows. So close, and yet so far…
Sleep beckons. Be seeing you…
*Still better than the likes of Quest for Fireor Don’t Look to the Eyes of a Stranger mind you. I adore the Maiden, but they’ve a few stinkers in the back catalogue that’s for sure.